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American Country Countdown, also known as ACC or American Country Countdown with Kix Brooks, is an internationally syndicated radio program which counts down the top 40 country songs of the previous week, from No. 40 to No. 1, according to the Mediabase country chart. Begun in 1973, the show was originally hosted by comedian Don Bowman until 1978, when Bob Kingsley succeeded him as host. After Kingsley left in 2006 to host his own show, Kix Brooks (one half of the country music duo Brooks & Dunn) succeeded him in January 2006.

History

Based on the success of American Top 40, Casey Kasem and Don Bustany, together with Tom Rounds of Watermark, created a country version of the top 40 program called ACC. The three-hour weekly show premiered the weekend of October 6, 1973 produced by Bustany and hosted by comedian Don Bowman. The Billboard Hot Country Singles chart was the official chart for the countdown program.

In 1974 when the show was up and running, Bustany tapped Bob Kingsley, who had been program director at country station KLAC-Los Angelesmarker, to be ACC's producer. Kingsley molded the fledgling program into a major success then, on May 6, 1978, succeeded Bowman and hosted the program until December 2005, when Kingsley started a competing radio show, Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40.

During the early years of the show, the jingle, "My kind of country, my kind of music" was closely associated with ACC. In the mid-1990s the jingle was discontinued. While the program's content during its early years was almost exclusively the songs in that week's Top 40, ACC was lauded as an outstanding show that contained a lot of information about the songs and performers.

In August 2009, ACC began using the Mediabase country chart as its chart source.

Changes through the years

Throughout ACC's history, the program shared several similarities with its parent American Top 40 program, including:

  • Bios and stories: Like AT40, most segments of ACC included two songs; some would include three. The second song in the segment was often preceded with a story about the song and/or its recording artist. Sometimes the stories are humorous, sometimes serious, sometimes related to a given topic ... there was no set formula.
  • Oldies and extras: At times, a song would be accompanied by an older song that was related in some way — usually, this was another song from the artist or songwriter and debuted on the Billboard charts on that given week. These became increasingly rare by the early 1980s under the three-hour format (due to increased song length), but began to be included again once the four-hour format started. More often than not, the No. 1 song was accompanied by a story.
  • Great Radio Stations: Once an hour, generally halfway into the hour, the host would mention three or four radio stations that carried ACC. The plug was virtually identical: "'American Country Countdown' is heard in the 50 states and around the world every week on great radio stations like ... ." The list frequently included Canadian and foreign stations, as well as a plug for Armed Forces Radio. In addition, new ACC affiliates were mentioned at the top of one of the hours.
  • Bumper music and number jingles: In addition to a series of jingles that were used as commercial bumpers, each hour's programming ended with a piece of nondescript bumper music; the host indicated how many songs remained in the countdown (e.g., "We've got the week's top 26 songs waiting and ready to be counted down, so stay with us!"). The music piece was about 1-2 minutes long, which the in-studio radio disc jockey could fade out immediately — so as to play commercials or give station identification — or allow to be completed in its entirety. Also, number jingles — similar to those used on AT40 — were frequently heard throughout the countdown (e.g., the "Billboard's number forty!" cue to introduce the No. 40 song).


Through the years, "ACC" underwent many changes. The show was expanded to four hours in January 1986, and Kingsley now played the previous week's No. 1 song at the beginning of the program. Previous hits from an artist — particularly if the song debuted on the Billboard charts on that given week — were once again featured, and the following new features were added:

  • "ACC Calendar", which spotlighted a classic song; birthday of a performer or songwriter; or innovation in country music's history. At first it was an occasional feature that would be inserted at different points in the show. However, beginning in February 1996 when listener requests were instituted, "ACC Calendar" was played at the end of the third hour; the feature was discontinued when Kingsley departed the show.


  • From 1986-1991, a chronological playback of all the No. 1 songs, from 1970 to 1989; three songs were played per week. (A similar feature was used on AT40 from 1978-1981, that programming beginning with 1970s hits before going back to the 1960s.)


  • From 1991-1996, the No. 1 songs were played alphabetically; at first, the list ranged from 1966 to 1990, but when this feature reached titles beginning with "N" in the summer of 1994, the list was shortened to highlight those songs from 1980 to 1993. Again, three songs were played each week.


Also during the 1990s, highlights of interviews from top country singers — sharing stories or the background of one of their songs — began to be included.

Current shows include a number of features, including:

  • Top 3 recap — snippets of the top 3 songs from the previous week's countdown.


  • "ACC Mailbag", where listeners are invited to request a song and share a story about why it means so much to them; the concept was the same as the "Long Distance Dedication" on AT40. "ACC Mailbag" began in February 1996; and during the Kingsley hosted era the feature was at the end of the first and second hours of ACC. When Kix Brooks took over the Mailbag segment was moved to the end of the second and third hours.


  • "Still in Tune", a profile of a classic country artist who is still active in the industry. This feature began with the Brooks-era shows and serves as a replacement of the "Calendar" feature.


Kingsley's departure

Kingsley hosted the program for 27 years, stepping aside when Citadel Media (formerly ABC Radio Networks) decided to move the show in a new direction. According to Billboard Radio Monitor, Kingsley – who produced ACC for distribution by ABC Radio Networks – and ABC "failed to come to terms in a renegotiation." While Brooks took the helm of ACC, Kingsley began a new radio program called Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40, which premiered December 31, 2005.

ACC Specials

ACC broadcasts several special programs throughout the year. The most notable include:

  • Christmas in America, was a six-hour program aired within the week leading up to or on Christmas Day, with interview clips from country singers sharing Christmas memories interspersed between songs. The first special aired in 1989. While the title and format continued with Bob Kingsley's Country Top 40 production, ACC's version continued as American Country Christmas, with Brooks being joined by Ronnie Dunn.
  • The Year End Countdown. From 1973 to 1998, the year-end special reviewed the top 100 country hits of the year; this was halved to 50 from 1999 to 2004, and then trimmed to just the top 40 beginning with the 2005 year-end survey. The most notable highlight is a montage of all the No. 1 songs included in the countdown's survey period (usually, the previous November to the current November, although this has included early December for a time in the late 1980s) before the host plays the year's top song.


Other special programs, usually centering on a theme or to promote a much-anticipated album that is about to go on sale, air throughout the year. Past specials have paid homage to the West, presented unusual or notable chart facts and performer accomplishments, profiled a performer and presented the top female and male singers of the past decade.

On the occasions when Kingsley was absent, a top radio personality from one of ACC's affiliates filled in as host. Michael Jay filled in for ACC's annual year-end countdown program on December 31, 2005, as Kix Brooks did not assume hosting duties until January 21, 2006; Jay serves as the substitute host when Brooks is absent.

Awards

ACC was named Billboard magazine's "Network/Syndicated Program of the Year: Country" from 1987 to 2002. Kingsley twice won the Country Music Association's National Broadcast Personality of the Year award (in 2001 and 2003).

Worldwide syndication

When ACC premiered in October 1973, the show aired on just 45 stations. Today, the show is heard on more than 1,000 radio stations in the United Statesmarker and worldwide, and can be heard on the Armed Forces Radio Network.

ACC is produced and distributed by Citadel Media Networks; since 2007, the program has been distributed via Citadel's Today's Best Country satellite network. Tom Rounds' Radio Express distributes the program to radio stations outside the United States.

Further reading

  • Bachman, Katy, "Brooks to Host American Country Countdown." Mediaweek, November 9, 2005.
  • Durkee, Rob. American Top 40: The Countdown of the Century. Schriner Books, New York Citymarker, 1999. ISBN 0-02-864895-1. Includes information about American Country Countdown.
  • Stark, Phyllis, "ABC Taps Kix Brooks As New Countdown Host", Billboard Radio Monitor, November 9, 2005.
  • Battistini, Pete, "American Top 40 with Casey Kasem (The 1970s)." Authorhouse.com, January 31, 2005. ISBN 1-4184-1070-5. Includes information about American Country Countdown.


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